Minority Report: Mr Nice Guy (Review)

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Episode two of Minority Report continues on the “fish out of water” theme (or more accurately the “precog out of the milk bath” theme). Mr. Nice Guy sees Dash working on another case with Lara Vega.  By the end of the episode, Arthur seems to be on board with illegally helping Det. Vega. This series is pretty much a “vision of the week” set-up with episode two being a woman’s murder seen in flashes by Dash.

Mr. Nice Guy starts with Lara (Meagan Good) and her boss Blake (Wilmer Valderrama) taking part in a training exercise. The two show just how they work together, Vega ignoring Blake and him calling her out on it. While they are no longer partners, Blake was promoted, they still act like they are.

Dash (Stark Sandsstill desperately wants to be a cop and solve crimes. The precog sees Vega as his partner. Agatha (Laura Regan) warns Dash about his actions and Arthur (Nick Zano) tells him he is being naive. Ignoring both of them Dash continues working with Vega. The precog’s old caretaker Wally (Daniel London) helps Dash in his quest to be a “good guy” and stop murders in the city.

The flashes that Dash see in his vision are traced to a single’s club. Lara and Dash check it out and at the club some comic scenes ensue. While the show focusses on Dash’s lack of social skills, it also relates some amusing dialogue. Vega moans about the lack of romance in the world, Her mother, she says, tells of the interaction “back in the day” where people actually communicated. They sent  texts and pictures, Lara marvels at how that must have been.

Lara and Dash refuse to use Arthur initially and end up casing the wrong suspect.Arthur gets the names and more facts than Dash.  Tyson Cole,  an author, something that is a rarity in the future apparently, is the man they believe will kill the woman seen in Dash’s vision. The writer, who specializes in dating etiquette and pick up techniques is followed by them until they realize that the visions Dash had were misleading.

While all the clubbing is going on, Blake volunteers his section and personnel to the new Hawk Eye program, the replacement for Precrimes.  As the duo struggle to avoid being found out by Vega’s boss Blake, they realize that the murderer is the bartender at the singles club.

The two arrive to save the woman just in the nick of time. Before the end credits roll, Vega has enlisted the services of Arthur. With two precogs helping,  more information will be available. Since the two siblings can gather more inclusive data, future cases will be, presumably, easier to solve.

Thus far, Minority Report is moving slowly forward with its story arc. The characters are likable enough but so far not too overly dimensional. Vega is attractive,  assertive and interesting. She is not, however, too deep.  Dash is focussed on how much he does not know versus what he can do.

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FOX have brought their Philip K.  Dick series to the small screen and the series may work over the long run. However, the network counting on the film adaptation connection to provide an instant fanbase may turn out to be overly hopeful. There is none of the tension from the film, or the big names,  and the series lacks the feeling of Dick’s bleak dystopian world from the short story.

Minority Report airs Mondays on FOX. This one may not make it past the first season but time will tell whether the series  can or will find its feet.  One thing that might help would be more Laura Regan and this may eventually happen. Until then tune in and see what happens next with the “freewheeling” precog.

 

Minority Report Series Premiere: FOX Opts for Science Fiction Again

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FOX opting for another science fiction series after unceremoniously dumping fan favorite Almost Human is a bit puzzling. Perhaps the idea that  the 2002 film Minority Report is connected with Steven Spielberg; who directed the big screen adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story. Whereas the futuristic Almost Human had no similar pedigree, except the confidence of J. J. Abrahams,  but it did have pretty devoted following.

In all honesty, the series is quite different from the Tom Cruise vehicle and only uses Dick’s premise very slightly.  Precrimes has been demolished and now the precognitive’s live outside the system,  expelled by the system that their presence helped to create.  The year is 2040 and police have, in essence, taken a huge step back in solving crimes.

Only, however, in that they must now wait for the crime to be committed.  In terms of investigative equipment, law enforcement in this alternative future world have some pretty impressive tools at their disposal.  Including something that looks like a nod and a tweak from the 2010 Sony/Quantic Dream video game Heavy Rain.

In Minority Report, at the start of the episode, one of the precog’s, Dash (played by Stark Sands who looks like a cross between Jessie Eisenberg and perhaps Benedict Cumberbatch) goes to the big city to stop a murder. Sadly, for the victim, he fails since he rushes to the wrong building.

This leaves the police to come in and investigate what happened and this  is where the television version of Minority Report goes all Heavy Rain and Norman Jayden with his ARI system.  In the Quantic Dream game, FBI drug addict Jayden wears a pair of glasses, which could conceivable be seen as the video game world precursor of Google Glasses.

The agent slips the glasses on, along with a pair of special gloves and ARI collects clues, postulates paths and forensically exams evidence. Jayden becomes a walking, talking crime computer.  In the apartment of the murdered woman, Detective Lara Vega (Meagan Good) does not need glasses, she inserts a contact lens and instead of gloves, the detective puts in a single ear plug. 

Using her version of ARI, Vega is able to see what transpired when the victim was attacked and then thrown through and  from her high-rise apartment window.  For all intents and purposes Vega has become Jayden,  sans the ARI side effects which drove the video game character to become addicted to a drug.

The series features technology that has become almost synonymous with the future. The police in 2040 have virtual computers and there are holographic  phones, as well as monitors. This technology also existed in the brain child of creator  J.H. Wyman and executive producer J.J. Abrahams, but their “video game” point of reference appeared to be the 2011 game Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Karl Urban’s character, in Almost Human,  has an advanced prosthetic, which is the basis behind the verse of the Eidos Montreal game. The former FOX science fiction offering looked further into the synthetic verse from Deus Ex: Human Revolution and had police utilizing androids who were “almost human.”

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Meagan Good as Detective Vega and Stark Sands as Dash.

Minority Report has no Tom Cruise, or small screen equivalent, as its  star. Almost Human had “almost” too many high profile names. Karl Urban, Lili Taylor and the ever-busy Michael Ealy. To be fair to the new series, it does have prolific actress Meagan Good, former horror film regular Laura Regan and “Fez” from That ’70s Show (aka Wilmer Valderrama who is now all grown up and quite the specimen.) 

Still, in the stakes of which show had more star power, if casting were a card game, it would be a case of  “I’ll take your  “Fez” and raise you a Lili Taylor.” Urban trumps all the other names  on offer from Minority Report easily. (That may well have been the real reason behind FOX killing the other science fiction series. Urban made the exodus from TV to film easily and was probably not in a real hurry to return for too long.)

The Minority Report pilot feels a little smug and self gratifying. Director Mark Mylod (Entourage, Ali G Indahouse) seems an odd choice as the season one opening director but the problem with the pilot is not his fault.  Things in this adaptation of an adaptation, clang.

The use of robotic help makes no real sense in some of the scenes. Written, seemingly, for effect, the fast food restaurant scene with the robot cook and the little genetic’s spiel about french fries does not work.  Earlier a robot is demolishing a steel structure and while this scene feels that bit more “real” it still invites more questions than it should.

Another issue is with the pairing of Vega and Dash (Stark Sands). The dynamic between the two feels too much like a re-hash of another FOX offering,  Sleepy Hollow  with its odd-couple formula.

There is, however, one possible saving grace for the new series. During the back half of the pilot, the two precog brothers discuss the Precrime program and the conversation recalls Philip K. Dick’s theme of variable futures and other timelines which the Cruise film did not touch.

This moving back to the source is admirable and leads one to believe that this may turn out all right after all. Granted, the source material is a short story so this return is not the end all be all of the show. There is also the fact that Dash is, in the pilot anyway, pretty infallible with his flashes of precognition and the premise behind Dick’s book was that this cannot, or should not, be the case.

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Vega and Blake (Wilmer Valderrama)

The overall feeling from watching the season premiere of Minority Report is one of expectation rather than satisfaction.  In essence, the jury is out on this Sleepy Hollow version of Philip K. Dick’s bleak future scenario. The show airs Mondays on FOX.  The big question is will this new series suffer the same fate as Almost Human?